“Oh. No. I asked about Wi-Fi. Oksana didn't know what I was talking about.”
With this I calm down. So does Sergei. I think we both realize we were being
jerks—waltzing into a hotel in a small town in rural Russia, expecting them to have Wi-Fi
and to be able to register a foreigner immediately. Oksana is doing her absolute best—and
she can't think we're very pleasant. And I realize how happy I am to be in a place that has
never seen a foreigner—or heard of Wi-Fi.
Sergei and I turn in and get some much-needed sleep. We are awakened by—wouldn't
you know it?—sunshine, streaming through the window. Sergei takes a towel and wash-
cloth and heads up the hall to use the shower. He comes back with news.
“David, you will not believe it. The owner of the hotel is here. Nadezhda. She stayed up
all night reading about how a hotel should register foreigners. She has spoken to the local
immigration authorities. They gave her instructions.”
“And she brought a portable photocopy machine this morning to copy your passport.
She said she was very sorry for the trouble. And she thanked me , because she is grateful
now to know how to register guests from other countries.”
I am touched—and angry at myself for being frustrated last night.
“David, Nadezhda is also offering to drive us into town—should we say yes?”
“She has one request: She would like to take a picture of us. She would like to begin a
display of photos of honored guests. We are the first.”
I shower and pack. Then Sergei, Nadezhda, and I pose for a photo in one of her guest
rooms. I thank Nadezhda profusely.
It's quite a photo. Nadezhda looks best—she's an attractive blond, perhaps in her forties.
She's wearing a bright red sweater, with a gold Orthodox cross hanging around her neck.
Sergei and I are in our Trans-Siberian uniforms—we packed light, so our outfits become
familiar. I am in jeans, a blue sweater and gray scarf. Sergei is in jeans and a tan sport coat
over a plaid shirt.
The three of us walk outside and load into Nadezhda's Nissan SUV. The driver's seat is
on the right—a telltale sign we are making our way East. Russians in Siberia try to import
cars from Japan if they can, because they are generally cheaper than Russian- or European-
made cars. The only downside is that you drive on the right side of the car—and also the
right side of the road.
The hotel looks nicer in the sunlight—a bright yellow-and-brown building with white
windowsills—but the neighborhood does not. We pull out of the parking lot into the indus-